Books & Literature

Book Review: The Opera House, by Peter Fitzsimons

NON-FICTION: Shares the extraordinary stories connected to this building that are as mesmerising as the light catching on its white sails.

Surprisingly interesting, superbly told.

Author Peter Fitzsimons is a Member of the Order of Australia for his service to both literature and the community (2011). Whether you know him as a former Wallaby, sports commentator, television presenter, speaker of four languages, long time journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald, political activist or as Australia’s top selling non-fiction writer, one thing that is shared in all his varying fields is his passion to celebrate all that is Australia.

Fitzsimons’ latest book is about our iconic Australian monument, the Sydney Opera House. Depending on your age you may know a little bit about its history, which stretches back to the 1950s. If you add in the location, its history stretches back 60,000 years as it is built on a sacred site of the Gadigal people. In more recent times (2007), it was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, synonymous with the Great Wall of China for grandeur, innovation, and ambition. Whatever your level of interest or knowledge, there is a lot you likely don’t know.

What more do we need to know? Well, if it weren’t for a few key powerful players, it would not exist. All the politics, the drama, the people, and the money involved in its construction is unveiled in The Opera House.  

Amazingly, the seemingly dry topic is, for the main part, an absolute joy to read. Fitzsimons has wonderful writing skills and weaves together the multiple facets that were conducive to the establishment of the Opera House seamlessly. He has the timeless gift of giving the reader as much detail as possible to peak the imagination but only enough so as not to detract from the story.

When money, fame, prestige, politics, and the press are involved, lives can be destroyed. Fitzsimons talks about the public and private side of most characters and is objective in his approach, allowing the reader to make their own judgement. In terms of politics, though, it is impossible for the reader not to feel frustrated and grow weary of reading in some parts.

The Opera House is a thick paperback of more than 500 pages with a small font. There are a few pages of photos of its construction and a handful of drawings. Made up of 18 chapters with additional sections such as an epilogue and bibliography, this novel is packed with meticulously researched material.

All the lives touched upon directly by the Opera House and its construction, for better or worse, are wrapped up at the end. No questions are left unanswered.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Hachette Australia
Released: March 2022
RRP: $39.99

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